Scott Niedermayer: Blackhawks continue to impress in Game 2
Four-time Stanley Cup winner Scott Niedermayer of the Ducks will share his unique perspective and thoughts with The Times' readers during the Stanley Cup finals. Today, he reviews the Blackhawks' 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 2.
What a wild end to the game! I’m sure Philadelphia feels that if they’d played a little more that way for the whole game, they could have gotten a win. On the other side, Antti Niemi was doing his job very well. That was a bit of a question mark for the Blackhawks going into the playoffs. Just watching him play last night…he seemed to be really focused and on top of his game. You just had the feeling that it was going to be tough to beat him. And it proved to be that way, especially in the third period. He controlled the game. Even though Philadelphia was getting its chances, he was the big difference.
Ben Eager’s goal was obviously huge. I think you’ve seen that any team that’s had success through the playoffs, when you have two months of hockey, you can’t just rely on one, two or three guys to score your goals. You need to have contributions from everybody. The timing has to be right. What better time for a guy like that, a fourth-line guy, to score a huge goal and it turned out to be the game-winner. That’s a huge ingredient to success in the playoffs.
If you look back with what Philadelphia’s been through this playoffs, they’ve been able to dig themselves out of worse situations. The games have been close. I’m sure they feel a better play here, or one less mistake there and the game would have been theirs. Knowing Prongs, (Chris Pronger) he’s making sure everyone keeps their focus on their game. That’s always an important thing when there’s a lot of distractions, you stick with what got you there. I’m sure that’s what he’s talking about and trying to portray to the rest of the guys.
Philly will be excited to be going home. The fans are going to be pumped up to be a part of the Stanley Cup Final. I played in many big games in Philadelphia when I was with New Jersey -- the fans are going to be ready to go and the team is going to feed off of it. Perhaps they can use that to be the difference maker. The energy is going to be amazing in that building.
Chicago’s challenge is to remain focused. Two wins doesn’t win you anything. I’m sure they are saying ‘we’re in a good position,’ and human nature is such where you feel good about where you are. There are games yet to win and they really have to focus on keeping their concentration and intensity with which they’ve played so far. They have played well on the road so far so I would expect that to continue.
If you told me two months ago that Niemi was going to perform as he’s done through the whole playoffs, that would be a surprise. But now that he’s done it this far and did it again last night, it’s not really a surprise. You kind of expect it now because he’s been playing with a lot of confidence. This time of year, once you’ve been through three playoff rounds, there are fewer and fewer surprises. Teams have found their niche about how they need to play, why they’ve had success and they’re going to stick with it.
I’m never a great predictions guy, but I know people like them. So for Game 3, I’m going to predict that Philadelphia will win…but not with much confidence so don’t hold me to it!
-- Scott Niedermayer
Top photo: Chicago goalie Antti Niemi makes a save during Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals on Sunday. Credit: Rob Grabowski / US Presswire. Bottom photo: Scott Niedermayer. Credit: Gary A. Vasquez / US Presswire